Working Lives

The Post Office (1950s-1990)

Location: England

Alan gave us this description of his working life at the Post Office and in telecommunications.


I had a basic education and left school in 1952 at the age of 15, without any examination qualifications. Destined to follow my father into his workplace, an engineering factory. Or perhaps some form of apprenticeship or a dead end job. School leavers had the opportunity of visiting the Youth Employment office (YEO) (Part of the Employment Exchange, Ministry of Labour) To discuss suitable employment opportunities. In the first year of leaving school, I had two jobs both referrals from the YEO, neither had much future and each lasted six months. The first ended due to shortage of work and lack of revenue. The second when I obtained a new job which was the start of my real working life.

1953 The General Post Office (GPO)

Living near to me was a lad who was employed as a Post Office Telegram Boy. He used to pop home on his GPO motorbike. I talked to him about his job and decided to apply to the local Head Post Office regarding vacancies. I was called for an interview, given a basic intelligence test and referred for a medical. In due course I was offer a position as a Young Postman (Telegram Boy) at Wembley approximately 8 miles from my home. I started my new career in June 1953 aged 16. Wembley was a small geographical area. We only used pushbikes. It was regimented environment. We had to clean our leather and brass buckled belt and pouch and be inspected by the Sorting Office Inspector every morning re general appearance. Pay was about £3.00 per week.

1955. Age 18

The law required that all youths of eighteen register for National Service (Conscription into the Armed Forces.) A medical followed and an interview. We were asked about our preferences for which service, regiment or trade / skill we would like to serve in. I opted for Postal Worker, Fire Fighter or Driver. There were no guarantees that you would get your choice, in fact it was more than likely that you would end up in some other role. At this age I also transferred into the Sorting Office as a Postman and received basic training on sorting and preparing mail for delivery. I carried out a range of duties and shifts for the next six months. It was a friendly environment and if a person was struggling to get their delivery prepared, others would help out. Pay about £8.00 per week.

1956 January Army Service

I was conscripted into the Royal Engineers (RE’s). After basic training I was posted to the Home Postal Depot in London for postal training, which was much more in depth that I had received from the GPO. Most of my service was in Germany. I was discharged in January 1958 to return to my Postman’s job at Wembley. I often wonder if I had been allocated some other role in the army, would I have gone back to postal!

1958 January Postal Career details

Soon after re-commencing my Postman’s duties I applied for driving. The GPO trained and tested its own drivers. I worked as a Postman/ Driver for just over 5 years. It was a good time, male dominated and a lot of comradeship. To increase my earning without having to perform overtime pay about £12.00 per week, I applied for promotion to Postman Higher Grade (PHG). This was semi managerial work with responsibility for secure mails, monies and on occasion staff. Pay about £15.00 per week. I was recommended for training and attended a two week course at the London Postal School (LPS). The Instructors were on a temporary promotion at a higher grade than I would be. They worked 8-5, 5 days a week. I would be returning to the sorting office,. Shift work, weekends, bank holidays e.t.c. In due course I applied for the Instructors position and was successful on the second attempt.

1965 Instructor Temporary Assistant Inspector, London Postal School

There was a training and trial period of three months. A three year term would follow. Pay £1000 pa, monthly paid. That was considered good money then. On completion of your term you would return to your normal office, reverting to your previous grade. You could re-apply for a further term but 12 months had to be spent back at your office. Apart from undergoing in house training, I was sent on a three week instructors training course at another GPO training establishment, The tutor was discussing promotion prospects with me. The postal business was very seriously seniority based and waiting for dead men’s shoes. The tutor came from the telephone business and considered that the prospects on that side were very much better and suggested a couple of positions that might interest me. The LPS was very formal and official and all male staff. I trained London Postman on their two weeks basic training and after a period of time Postman Higher Grade. It was very interesting position and I got a lot of experience and satisfaction out of the job.


I successfully applied to an advertised vacancy for Assistant Inspectors (A I’s) position at another sorting office within the area of my Head Post Office. Pay £1000 pa. So it was back to the sorting office and shift work. On the management team of three other AI’s and an Inspector. Now dealing with all the front line day to day problems of staff. It was also a time of difficult industrial relationships with a lengthy postman strike.


I successfully applied for a position as a Sales Representative on the telephone side of the business. In due course I transferred to the Telephone Managers Office London, North West Area.

1972 Sales Representative (SR)

I had a very extended period of training in sales techniques, procedures and telecommunications services and products. During my time in this position I covered many different aspects of the SR’s role and in many different locations. Often with on going training. Pay still in the region of £1000 pa.

1980- 1990 Changes

The monopoly was being relaxed. Telecommunications became separated from the postal business. The telecommunications business became privatised and eventually became BT. We were now in a period of constant change. The field sales force was to be reorganised on commercial lines. New grades and job descriptions. New salary structure, targets, commission, company car e.t.c. The existing SR’s had to apply for the new positions and attend an interview. I was successful and obtained a post as Marketing Account Executive on a two year trial period. More changes. Areas became Districts with new Head Quarters. New management and team structures. I became a District Account Manager (DAM). Responsible for some of the larger customers in my area. Commercial, Health and Local Government. I was targeted on Revenue, Systems or Services sold / rented and set Objectives being met. Pay now in the region of £24K plus commission.

1990. Another big project came about which was the start of reducing staffing levels. At the age of 53 I was offered a voluntary early retirement package, which I accepted.

A new beginning

No longer the hungry salesman what sort of work will I do now? I sent my CV to a number of recruitment businesses that specialised in telecommunications personnel. One offered me a short term contract in a telesales type of role in their office. This developed and the contract was renewed on a number of occasions. Eventually I became permanent in the role of Business Development Consultant. This led to becoming involved in a number of recruitment projects and taking a training course and passing the exam to become a member of the Institute of Employment Consultants. I was with this business for over 8 years. It was really good experience and a great time with younger people who were mainly female staff. I was made redundant at the age of nearly 64 when business was transferred to other offices and the London office was closed.

New life retirement

I carried out a couple of short contract with contacts that I had in the employment industry. I responded to an advertisement for Interviewers for a social research project. I was trained by a University and obtained a Certificate in Research Methods. And I have carried out a number of projects interviewing, facilitating and note taking e.t.c and life goes on.


I consider that I have had a good working life. At times challenging but generally happy. I have earned enough money to support my family and meet my commitments. Targets and commission are an incentive to an individual and can benefit the business, but they can also cause problems such as miss selling, greed and mistrust.

What has made it is the people you meet on your way through. The person that gave you advice or planted the seed in your mind. Those that have assisted you in the early stages of learning a new job. Managers that have recommended you for a promotion. The person on the promotions board that may have argued in your favour. Of course there is the other side, the person who was against you, the clash of personlaities, the awkward person, but that’s life. Also training the quantity and quality provide by the Post Office (Postal and Telephones) and British Telecom (BT) and other learning experiences.

Submitted by Alan (b. 1937) in 2005.

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